Below is a letter from Teresa Meier. Here she explains how her desire to help underprivileged youth came to be. We are very proud of her accomplishments this past year, and for her determination to see her vision come to fruition. Please consider continuing to support her as she takes her next big step. Let's encourage the success of those who wish to help others!
I was a fearful child. Quiet, because I was afraid to speak. I watched, afraid to act. I lived under tables, afraid to take up space. And I colored. I silently replicated the world onto scraps of paper, making a mark and allowing myself to exist and be a part of the world around me. My tiny self intuitively understood this was my way of holding a dialogue with the world. It didn't scare me. That is, until this world told me it should. Artists are starving and coloring is for kids, anyways.
So I studied neuropsychology. I spent my early adulthood studying and researching the crossover area between genetics and psychology. Much of the research I did centered around victims and language, which led to working with children and teens. When I encountered a six-year-old child sex offender, I began to grasp the incredible perpetuity of the cycle of violence and sadly understood how the greatest victims are unknowingly set to repeat. It took me many more years, but I ultimately discovered that art and photography are my most powerful tools in combating that violence for myself and for others.
Becoming a photographer and artist has been one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks in my life. I am constantly surprised, amazed and delighted by photography's power to engage and unite people in a positive way. I am grateful that I have photography in my life, for the way it has and continues to connect me to so many people and communities, and I hope to continue to share it as a powerful, positive and impactful tool.
For the past three years, I have collaborated with prevention specialist Laura Stanley of Trillium Family Services to organize and teach a photography-based art therapy class for at-risk and underprivileged teens under the name of Photosynthesis. Last June, we provided a weeklong photography workshop at David Douglas High School.
A recent and generous donation from Wieden+Kennedy enabled the purchase of six Nikon dSLR cameras for the program, and the kids enjoyed learning camera basics during an outdoor expedition to Wahclella Falls in the Columbia Gorge. We also enjoyed a guest lecture from photojournalist Joel Preston Smith, who taught the kids about environmental portraiture. Joel accompanied us on a service tour at Zenger Farms, where we were able to practice photographing people engaged in projects on the farm, as well as learn about the farm and lend a hand with some weeding.
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Additionally, I taught the kids about the historical photographic processes, and with a kind donation from Collage Art Supply, the kids were able to try out the cyanotype process. Finally, Pushdot Studios generously printed and mounted the students' work for a month long exhibition in July at Newspace Center for Photography's special exhibitions gallery.
The program has garnered tremendous community support, and I have witnessed the positive impact it has had on participating teens. Because of the success of this pilot program and with the continued support of this wonderful community, I have decided to officially establish the Photosynthesis program under the name White Rabbit Laboratories. I will continue the efforts of Photosynthesis and build a sustainable photography program that will not only provide valuable therapeutic benefits to its participants, but will also result in a more diverse media landscape in a field that it is still predominantly comprised of white males from the middle to upper class.
It is my goal to raise enough funds via my sponsorship with Taking Focus, Inc to establish White Rabbit Laboratories as 501(c)3 non-profit. Additionally, I am seeking funds to support administration, marketing and education developments for the program as I expand the organization and attempt to integrate the program beyond the three high schools I have currently served.